The American Civil Liberties Union of Utah sent letters to all members of Utah’s federal congressional delegation, advising that the blocking of constituents on social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook constitutes a First Amendment violation.
“You and your office(s) have embraced social media as a key means of communicating and interacting with constituents and the public,” the ACLU of Utah states in the letters. “Because your social media pages are a public forum, your blocking of these individuals is an unconstitutional restriction on their right to free speech under the First Amendment.”
The letters are a response to several complaints made to the ACLU of Utah in recent months, in which Utahns report being blocked from posting to the Twitter and Facebook accounts of, specifically, Representative Mia Love and Senator Orrin Hatch.
The ACLU of Utah advises members of the federal delegation to “cease unlawfully censoring constituents by blocking their access to…social media pages based on the viewpoints they express there.” If their posted messages do not contain obscenity, threats or other speech that can be lawfully restricted under the First Amendment, members of the public must be allowed to participate in any forum for public expression opened by public officials through online social media.
“We hope this information helps our elected officials stay on the right side of the First Amendment, when it comes to communicating with the public and their constituents,” said Leah Farrell, ACLU of Utah Staff Attorney. “Social media is a great way to facilitate public discussion, but those discussions need to include everyone, even people who don’t agree with their representatives.”
Full copies of the letters are available on the ACLU of Utah’s website at www.acluutah.org.